Carlos Alcaraz is mature beyond his 18 years, which he showed in a comeback win Monday evening at the Rio Open presented by Claro.
Down a lopsided set against a familiar foe in fellow Spaniard Jaume Munar, Alcaraz remained calm. The seventh seed cleaned up his game and showed no fear of taking the initiative in points to rally past Munar 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 for a place in the second round.
“Jaume was playing really, really well. He played more matches on clay in the last tournaments than me. I didn’t play on clay since July last year, so it was really tough for me,” Alcaraz said. “I knew it was going to be difficult. But I’m really happy with the way I turned around the match.”
Last year in Marbella, where the pair also met on clay, Munar defeated Alcaraz in straight sets. But this time, the younger Spaniard was unrelenting.
After an opening set in which he struggled to find rhythm, Alcaraz broke early in the second set and never looked back. From a stunning lob to a sliding one-handed backhand shovel winner, everything went right for the teen from then on, including fearless forays into the forecourt.
The World No. 29, who is as physically fit as many ATP Tour veterans, lost just three games in the final two sets. He saved 10 of the 13 break points he faced to triumph after two hours and 15 minutes. Fittingly, Alcaraz finished the clash with a perfect backhand drop volley winner.
Rio de Janeiro will always be a special city for Alcaraz, who upset Albert Ramos-Vinolas there two years ago as a 16-year-old. That victory made him the youngest tour-level match winner since 16-year-old Cristian Garin at Vina del Mar in 2013.
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The seventh seed will next play Argentine Federico Delbonis or Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan.
In other Monday action, Spaniard Pedro Martinez eliminated 17-year-old Juncheng Shang 6-3, 6-4 in one hour and 43 minutes. Martinez saved all three break points he faced against the former junior World No. 1 and will next play third seed Diego Schwartzman.
Another Spaniard, Pablo Andujar, also advanced. In a battle of 36-year-olds, Andujar ousted Pablo Cuevas 7-6(2), 7-5 after two hours and 12 minutes. Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic eliminated Brazilian wild card Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves 6-3, 6-0.